I am supposed to be writing for myself this month but there are six days (about) left and I only have ten thousand words of the fifty thousand minimum limit. I shall give up without much of a fuss this month And hope for the best in the next month I set aside for some writing.
With cheer I say, I do believe I have once again stumbled upon the Writing Blues! Everything seems to come to a juddering halt before the brick wall of discouragement. None of my characters will adhere to my commands. They have wilful souls of their own, and oddly, all seem to be biased towards the defiant, sullen demeanor. This will not do at all, because they can’t all monopolise the brooding inclination. They can’t all have the same damn personality!
These aren’t blues, though, so much as purples. This is not the muffled thump of me falling into a pit of writing misery. This is the tremulous hanging in the airless space between inspiration and avolition. Between red and blue. In purple.
Well, we have officially reached the end of November, and the end of Nano Poblano and of course, Nanowrimo.
When I pasted my entire month’s worth of blogs into a Word document, the total word count came up to 12,567 words. Which to be honest is more than I have written in a month in MANY years. So I am Very Pleased.
It was TOUGH.
It was hard to prioritise time to write a post each day.
I would just sit down, put the number in the title, and then just write. So whatever came out of my fingertips was published immediately with no editing and no re-reading.
My plan is to read over what I have done, do a tonne of editing and planning, and then make it into the Thing it has been in my head for over seventeen years.
Might take me a few more years lol.
Might be next November when I challenge myself again.
But it will happen.
This challenge has taught me one thing: I do have time to write about 500 words a day. They don’t have to be perfect or edited, they just have to be there on paper. It’s better than nothing!
If you did nanowrimo or nano poblano or any other writing challenge this month, how did you fare?
He stayed away for three years. Each term, when his fellow students would pack their trunks and shout their goodbyes, he stayed on. Always finding an excuse to stay. One summer he worked as an assistant for an old doctor who lived in a village not far from the Academy. Another, he found himself inundated with work that he had not managed to complete during term, and had a letter from Master Jeffman himself to say he required the services of one Thomas Norton, if his family would be so kind as to excuse his absence.
Each holiday when John stepped off the train alone, or arrived home alone, or exited a carriage alone, her eyes would lose some spark. Nobody noticed. She was still her energetic, cheerful self.
Nobody thought it odd that Tom did not come back. Not even John. He would cheerfully remark on his friend’s ability to throw himself wholly, completely into his studies. He would detail how well Tom was doing, the praise Tom received from Master Jeffman, praise which any for other boy was hard to come by.
And she smiled when her brother spoke of him. Gracious smile, and then a change of track in conversation.
Until one day, she could not take it any longer.
She sat down, picked up her pen.
I do not knowbut that I despise December. It is cold. It is grey. Darkness arrives not long after it lifts. When I see the dawn, I see no colour, save for the few days of sunshine we are so blessed to have. Perpetual GLOOM, Tom. Daises on a teacup. The only thing I look forward to in December is John’s much anticipated arrival. We all wait for him at the station, you see, since he writes which day he will be here. Mary waits, too, and your mother. She expects you, even if you havewritten to tell her you will not be on that train.
We get up early in December,before the dawn struggles its way up our side of the hill. The Lake has finally, finally frozen around the edges. Not enough to skate on – never enough for THAT, but we still dream, Mary and I. She is preparing to set off to new horizons. Come February, she too will be gone and then it will be just me left. She will be an Educated Woman, and I shall be the last remaining farm girl.
I could spend the rest of my life here, Tom. Everyday I love it more. I love the wind blowing over the hills and meadows. I love watching the sun set itself over our lake. I love the rustle in the forest. I love the smell of pine and rose when I fling my windows open in late summer. I love, yes, begrudgingly, I love the frosty mornings of December when every leaf, every twig, every branch, every blade of grass is iced most delicately, the most beautifulhandiwork ever seen. I have no desire to take myself off into the world, or throw myself into studies, or teach, or marry a rich man and sail the seas with him. I want to stay here.With my roses. With my beast.
Daises on a teacup, Tom.
Our Johntells us you are doing so well. So brilliantly well. He says you will be a doctor so renowned one day that none of us shall ever hear from you again, you shall be wanted all over the world. Is that true? I know my brother, he embellishes a lot. He flourishes one’s positive traits until one becomes faultless in his description. You are not faultless, and I know you are excelling, but I want some grisly detail. I want to hear of the fun things you get up to. I want to know what you do when you are not wearing the tip of your nose away on the grindstone.
Note: I write these daily Novembers to the background noise of my kids screaming. These days like to run around chasing each other and scream. It’s some kind of game. Their cries pierce right through my ears. They interrupt my thoughts and halt my words and make my brain feel like mush . I stop them sometimes, and other times I let them do it, because it seems like they enjoy it and they need to get it out of their system.
I am actually behind.
I am behind and I could panic about it but I won’t.
I won’t let the overwhelm overwhelm me.
Let this be my 25th post.
It has no substance.
My brain is mush.
But brains are mush. And it is within that mush that ideas grow.
It was the sound of the thundering freight train at 10pm every night that woke her. She knew that now. At first she thought it was something far beyond the reaches of man calling out to her. Something bigger than her Beast. Something deep in the underbelly of the earth, or soaring above the stars.
When the sound reached her dreaming ears it enveloped her completely. It dragged her by her heavy limbs from deep slumber and into the world of the living. Her eyes focused on the ceiling. Silvery in the light of the moon that always bathed her room on clear nights when the it was in its full form.
He asked her. She said no.
‘Why did you say no?’ her mother had asked, when she ran in sobbing after that fateful day in the garden.
‘I couldn’t lie to him, Mother,’ she told her mother, wringing her hands.
‘It wouldn’t be a lie, dearest.’
‘It would. It would!’
‘Well, who else are you waiting for?’
‘NOBODY!’ and she slammed the kitchen door as she flung herself out, threw herself up the stairs, stamping for emphasis, and then fell onto her bed in defeat. And perhaps some despair.
His face kept rising in front of her eyes when she tried to go to sleep. His face. She loved that face. The way he smiled, always. The secret smile. The boyish smile, when he made one of his numerous jokes or teased and teased and teased everybody who let him. The smile when he was just being himself. The smile he had ready for anybody he saw – and then the smile they reflected back at him. The smile when she spoke, the one she knew was only for her, the one she knew he didn’t even know he put on. He had no idea he smiled like that for her. The smile that she had wiped off his face so cruelly with only six little words.
She wanted to snatch those words back out of the air. Unwhisper them to the wind. Take them back and tuck them away where they belonged.
But where did they come from? They had to have come from somewhere.
Her heart felt sore. Yet the tears would not fall.
The first time they encountered the beast it was when the children were all swimming at the Lake.
It was not really a ‘lake’ – it was a small body of water surrounded by tall fir trees. You could access it via a stony, winding path, the edges of which were flanked by a low stone wall built by hand over a century ago. All the town’s children traipsed down the path in the torrid summer weeks, picnics and clothes in baskets, their chatter and laughter rising higher than the trees which brought them relief from the heat.
It was the longest day of summer. The hottest day. From the moment they woke up in the morning, they were stifled by the heat. When a ten year old Laura went downstairs, all the windows had been flung open, and the drapes hung lifeless in a nonexistent breeze. They had a light breakfast of bread and cold milk, before their mother shooed Laura, John and Phyllis out to the woods to play in the shade. It was cooler there, and on her way out Laura asked if they could swim in the Lake.
‘Yes, yes of course. Don’t forget to take your swimming things. And have Minnie pack you a lunch,’ was the response.
They met Mary once they reached the winding stone wall path. She was picking her way among the scattered stones three paces behind Tom, her older brother. As they neared the Lake, they heard splashing sounds, laughter and screams, and they all smiled at each other in anticipation.
They had to turn a final bend, which, when they did, they found themselves faced by a larger thicket of tall pine trees, rather than the slope down to the Lake that they had anticipated seeing. Tom, who was ahead, stopped dead in his tracks.
‘That’s funny,’ he said, as the others reached him, ‘that isn’t supposed to be there.’
‘We must have taken the wrong turn,’ John said quickly, grabbing hold of his sisters’ arms. The earth went silent. They could no longer heard the shouts and whoops from the Lake.
‘We can’t have taken the wrong turn,’ Tom hissed, ‘there is only one straight path.’
The children stood still. Frozen in place.
A wind started to blow. They felt it surge at them, and before they had any time to react to it, it swelled around them with a shriek so deafening that they fell to the ground. It pulled at their hair, hot and damp, tugged at their clothes, and roared in their ears. Laura, who had fallen next to Tom, locked eyes with the older boy – his, vivid, green, wide, looking directly at her, just so, in that way; she knew immediately he had heard exactly what she had.
Then it stopped, and when they looked up, the world was loud again. Birds chirruped in the trees. The path was clear ahead of them, sloping down to the grassy edge of the lake, where they saw their friends leaping into the water, squealing and splashing as though nothing was wrong.
My sister sent me a text when I was downstairs in my mother’s house, working at the dining table.
It was 7am. The house was silent. Everybody was fast asleep.
‘There’s a rainbow outside’ she wrote.
Immediately I jumped up, yanked open the curtains, and this is what I saw.
On one side, a gorgeous rainbow. Then behind me, opposite the rainbow, the prettiest sunrise!
Needless to say today I did not manage to sit to write a proper blog post. But I can’t miss a day, not when we are this close to the finish line. Every day in November a blog post! So here is my contribution from today. My eyes are stinging with exhaustion, I am about to collapse into bed, hoping my kids sleep through the night tonight! And I am happy I managed to get a post out before November 22 ends!
When Tom was set to leave for three years to study the first years of his Medical degree under the renowned Master Jeffman, he went to find Laura.
She was sitting with her mother in the garden, swinging her foot beneath her, a laugh seemingly frozen on her face. He paused for a few moments; the roses grew up and about the trellis surrounding her stone bench, clustered together, so numerous and nodding in the soft breeze.
He approached them with a smile, and Laura looked towards him, eyes dancing.
‘Come and sit with us, Tom,’ she said gaily, ‘we are just enjoying the roses and the sunshine. What little of it we shall have before autumn sets in.’
‘I don’t know,’ Tom looked at the sky, ‘it looks like we shall have much of this sunshine yet,’
Mrs Smith stood up, ‘I have my calls to make, dears. I’ll see you for supper, Tom?’
‘Oh no. I sha’n’t stay that long,’ he said, ‘my train leaves in an hour. I only came to say goodbye.’
‘Goodbye?! I thought… John said… he mentioned you would be travelling together?!’
‘Ah yes. I will wait for him at the Halfway Point. I have some clouds to catch.’
Twinkle in his eye.
Laura’s mother shook her head, turning back towards the house, ‘My boy,’ she laughed, ‘Don’t let those young men at Jeffman’s take your joy.’
When she had gone, Laura patted the seat beside her.
‘Sit awhile,’ she said.
‘I don’t have much time,’ he scanned the garden, hands in pockets, then paced in front of her.
‘Laura,’ he began, then stopped abruptly.
‘Go on,’ she said gently.
‘As you know, I will be gone for three years. Four, maybe, if it goes as well as I hope,’ he looked earnestly at her then.
Her eyes were downcast, and he saw how tightly she gripped the edge of the stone seat.
He went on, ‘And I was hoping – well, it would be my greatest honour if… if you would wait for me.’
Her eyes met the brilliance of his. A sudden wind surged through the garden, and her shoulders rose up to he ears. Her eyes, usually dancing with light and laughter, brimmed with something he could not describe.
‘Tom, I..’ she began, and her voice was like a knife through his chest.
‘Just say yes,’ he whispered, defeat written all over his face.
‘I can’t promise you that, Tom,’ she said sadly.
He didn’t wait for an explanation. He could not. He did not know how he would react, whether his heart would write itself on his face, whether she would scorn him, or hold him in disdain.
‘Very well. Goodbye, Laura,’ he said, in as calm a voice as he could muster.
The he turned on his heel and walked down the path. She did not watch him go. She let the wind follow after him, she heard the wind whisper in his ears, and she strained to listen to what it said.
The smallest droplets rose from the surfaces of the soil, the stones, the trees, leaves, shrubs.. roses… they rose and collated in the air. A mist. It was like the soul of the earth rising to meet its enrichment.
When she looked closely enough, she could almost discern each droplet, dancing its way up through the atmosphere over the grass. Atmosphere around the knees.
The day it all began was one such day.
When she arose in the morning the air was dank and grey. She could see the storm clouds in her room, floating just below her ceiling when she opened her eyes.
The bustle downstairs in the kitchen was a sign of life. Sign of life returning. Everybody coming to visit.
When the wind blew, it spoke in her ears, and she strained to listen. Strained as she got dressed in the morning. Cocked her head to the side as she pulled her stockings on, brushed her hair, fifty strokes to the right, fifty to the left.
She pushed her window open, all the way, so the wind whipped through her braid, yanking the loose strands at the front of her face left and right, storming at her, roaring into her ears so loudly that she frowned and shook her head firmly.
‘I can’t hear you when you scream like that,’ she tutted at the tempest outside, and closed her window.
She went down the stairs, slowly, taking her time, soaking the stillness in. Soon the front door would be flung open. Mary and her brood piling in, pink cheeks, hats askew. John following not far behind, his big grin threatening to slice his face in half. Phyllis and her millionaire, ears dripping with glittering jewels, mink scarf tucked around her pretty neck. Her arm would be tucked tightly under his, inseparable, still in love after all these years. Soon everybody would be back from their lives, back to where it all began, back to the beginning.
And when it was all over, when they all trooped home, back to their orbits, she would step outdoors. She would turn her head up to the skies, the tempest would die to a mere whisper. And the breeze would caress her face with its gentle, cool hands, and turn it this way and that, and it would murmur in her ear.
Her brother was off studying to be a doctor. Her younger sister had married a sailor, and was off traversing the oceans. They received a letter from Phyllis every six months, like clockwork, detailing one grand adventure after another. Small notes in the margins to outline the many illnesses she had managed to catch, but mostly tales of escapade after escapade.
Her dearest friend; they were joined at the hip from the tender age of four, had taken herself off to university.
‘What will you become,’ Laura remarked one day, a week before Mary was set to leave.
‘Nothing,’ Mary retorted, ‘I shall become knowledgable and learned, and then marry a rich man and raise some beautiful babies.’ Her eyes danced with laughter and light.
Everything was a possibility for Mary.
Everything was possible.
But for Laura, nothing beckoned to her from the distant, shimmering paths of the years ahead. She had no plans. Her sights were set on nothing.
When they all left, one by one, and she took up her pen at her desk by the window, looking over her rose garden, a deep desolation settled on her shoulders. It shrouded her like a cloak of misery. Her eyes scanned the roses, the trees of the gardens beyond, the acres of forest behind, all with her name on it. And beyond, the hills rolling away pale and blue in the distance.
They all wrote.
John from medical school. Mary from her dorms at university. Phyllis.. yes baby Phyllis still sending bi-annual letters. The days melted into weeks, into months. The letters became scarce.
She was busy enough, of course. She taught at the school on Tuesdays. She wrote for the paper, and soon her published pieces were so numerous that Aunt Martha, her mother and Mrs Norton no longer exclaimed over them with the same gusto.
‘Oh, Laura, another piece! Well done, dear,’
Their eyes did not match their words. They scanned her. Scanned her. Expected her to do things.
They invited young males over – parading her. She said as much in one of her letters to Tom, ink spattering indignantly on her face.
And Tom, TOM, they PARADE me. Can you believe the audacity? Your own mother invited Colonel Williams one evening and then decided she had a headache and could not possibly stay to keep him company, and ‘Laura dear’ would you please be so kind as to take the good colonel out to look at your beautiful roses. YOUR MOTHER, TOM?! Of course, my own mother is no better. She informed me we would be seeing Lady Betsy and to wear my best dress, you know, with the rosebuds. So I got all het up thinking the worst. It was all a wonderful conspiracy. Lady Betsy and Mama walked arm in arm ahead while a tall, gangly fellow whose name I cannot for the life of me recall regaled me with tall tales of life in the Navy. THE NAVY?! I informed him I much preferred the life a doctor leads – the only profession I know most about, since I have a bi-monthly summary from you and my brother.
And then Mary’s engagement. To John. Of all people.
She had a fat juicy letter brimming with the details from Mary. A short concise letter from her brother, the few words he had so clearly carefully selected not concealing the great joy leaping out at her from beneath. Leaping at her and stabbing her right in the heart.
She ought to have been happy. So happy. Leaping over the hills happy.